Sports

Mavericks coach tinkers with replacement parts

DALLAS - Rick Carlisle has been down this dark alley of a road before.

In his second season as an NBA head coach, Carlisle rallied his troops and coached the Detroit Pistons to the Central Division title and a coveted trip to the 2003 Eastern Conference Finals. What was special about that season is the Pistons started training camp in somewhat of a funk because they were adding an unprecedented eight new players to their roster.

Fast-forward 10 seasons later and Carlisle suddenly finds himself embarking on a similar journey.

Now coach of the Dallas Mavericks, Carlisle's squad will enter the upcoming season trying to work eight new players into the mix. Are the challenges eerily similar to the 2002-03 campaign in Detroit?

"We did well [in Detroit], we won 50 games and ended up going to the conference finals," Carlisle said. "But that's a different time and a different conference and a lot of different stuff.

"But I think the point is it's possible to take a lot of new guys and get them together and play well, and that's what we're going to do."

The new veterans the Mavs acquired this summer include guards Darren Collison and O.J. Mayo, center Chris Kaman, forward Elton Brand, and guard/forward Dahntay Jones. The incoming rookies are guard Jared Cunningham, forward Jae Crowder and forward/center Bernard James.

The Mavs held a press conference Monday at American Airlines Center for the five new veterans, and the newcomers are more than ready to jump in and help improve the Mavs, who were swept out of the first round of last season's playoffs in a 4-0 blitz by the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Collison acknowledged that he feels no pressure in following point guard Jason Kidd, who departed via free agency this summer and signed a three-year, $9 million contract with the New York Knicks.

"I don't even know what pressure means," Collison said. "For me, I think it's just going out there and playing your game.

"Once you play hard, people are going to respect that, people are going to see that you're working hard on every possession. Playing [after] Jason Kidd it means a lot to me because now I get to hear some of the stories that he used to do and it's going to better my game as well."

Ditto for Mayo, who was brought here to replace the scoring punch supplied by Jason Terry, who also left and signed a three-year, $15 million free agency contract with the Boston Celtics in July.

"I really don't believe in pressure," Mayo said. "It's all about going out there and getting the job done, and I'm really looking forward to it.

"Obviously Kidd and Terry brought a lot of great times here at American Airlines Center and throughout the community, and the championship was really big for the city.

"I think with the youth that we have and the understanding of how important it is, we can bring that same excitement and fun to the city and to American Airlines Center."

The new veterans know they were brought here to help Dirk Nowitzki -- the Most Valuable Player of the 2011 NBA Finals -- win another title before his talents begin to fade. But Brand offered his own analysis of the situation.

"We're hungry because we don't have any championships, and (Nowitzki) does," Brand said. "Hopefully we can make his job a lot easier and we can go out there and compete with all the teams in the league."

That's the plan Carlisle has mapped out for his newcomers.

"I like that they're all proven veteran players, and I like that they all want to be here," he said. "Those are two very important elements.

"It's going to be my job to fit them together to help us win."

Dwain Price, 817-390-7760

Twitter: @DwainPrice

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